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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

WESTPAC Scientists Develop Technical Guideline for Ciguatera Study

On 5-6 November 2013, WESTPAC Training Workshop on Toxic Marine Organisms was organized at the University of Tokyo, Japan with one of major objectives to develop one regional technical guideline on ciguatera study with reference to the experiences of Japan.

Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP or Ciguatera) is a foodborne illness caused by eating certain reef fishes contaminated with toxins produced by toxic dinoflagellates such as Gambierdiscus toxicus. Those toxins were generally called as ciguatoxin and its analogues. Large reef-dwelling fish in tropical and sub-tropical waters accumulate marine toxins by eating toxic algae growing on coral reefs, and are most likely to cause ciguatera poisoning. CFP is difficult to prevent as ciguatoxic fish do not carry a strange odor or taste, and cooking fish does not get rid of the heat-stable toxin.

CFP is the most problematic poisoning with reported cases amounting to 20,000 – 30,000 per year, but no effective management system has been developed yet in the WESTPAC region. Despite low reported cases of CFP in the region, scientists are concerned that there must be many unreported cases in the region and cases to be reported may increase in the near future, given that the CFP occurs mainly in tropical and subtropical coral area.

We must provide scientifically reliable information to prevent and reduce the impact of CFP” said Dr. Dao Viet Ha, WESTPAC Project Leader on Toxic Marine Organisms, emphasizing the need for one regional standard method on CFP study. The two days workshop, with the contribution of invited Japanese experts on ciguatoxins and other marine toxins, aims to improve knowledge on present situation of Ciguatera in member states, and develop one regional technical guidance on the collection of ciguatera poisonings, including clarification of clinical symptoms, identification of possible causative food, sample collecting for screening toxicity and toxin identification.